Everyone’s got at least a band or two they love, that nobody ever really talks about. A lot of times the band isn’t even very obscure, but for whatever reason just not brought up in musical conversation. Forstella Ford is one of those bands. But even to this day, there’s really no bands to speak of that sound like them; they weren’t groundbreaking by any means, but their style and execution was always fairly unique, and is one of the most telling reasons why three years later, Quietus sounds just as good as the day of its release.
While other Level Plane acts were garnering all sorts of critical acclaim, Forstella Ford was quietly making some of the best records around. Emotive, hard hitting, with what was often brilliant musicianship, these were guys who really knew how right a song. “Telltale Signs and Surefire Ways” starts off the album with a wrenching scream that leads way into a very memorable see-saw chord progression that rises and falls with the pounding of the drums. Their two-faced vocal attack, headed by guitarist Mark Sheppard and bassist Nick Sheppard, was an extremely formidable one, contrasting sharp bursts of screaming vocals with tactful singing. It’s the kind of sound that made them perfectly at home on the Level Plane roster, and throughout its 40-minute duration, the album does nothing but impress.
Working with a variety of tempos and instrumental arrangements, the four members were able to craft some really engaging songs, and the seven-minute “Dying on Our Own Terms” shows exactly that. The spacey guitar work that opens the song quickly gives way for some wicked screams, and the song goes through many stages of the loud/soft dynamic after that, which unlike most, they’re able to work flawlessly. This is overwhelmingly due to the talent of each musician, both guitarists especially, in that they’re able to instantly transform the sonic landscape, and bend sounds to fit exactly what they need to do.
Each song is genuinely different from the one before and after it. “Indoor Air” is a very relaxed, serene departure from the bands chaotic beginnings, as the softly song vocals glide over the delicate guitar tones, only for this calm to be ruptured by the terrific clean guitar lead in of the next track, “Summary Treatment.” The band does slow things down a bit, that is until the closer, “Mercurian Harmonium,” a track that brings to light everything the band does well all at the very same time. It’s an epic way to finish a record, and more than any other point on the record, Mark Sheppard’s wicked scream sounds absolutely flawless, and the music is just punishing. Weaving clean melodies over brutal riffing and the album's most powerful drum and bass work, the song is one that warrants many repeated listens to really immerse yourself in the layers and textures of the music.
I’m actually not sure what’s going on with this band right now, last I heard they had reformed in early 2005 and were slated to work on new material, but regardless of whether or not they do, Quietus stands up as one of the most underrated releases Level Plane has ever had a hand in releasing.